Nursing Care Guidelines for Adults with Near Death Experiences

Thursday, 25 July 2013: 8:30 AM

Diane K. Corcoran, RN, PhD
International Association of Near Death Studies, Durham, NC

Learning Objective 1: Describe two key authors in the research base related to near death experiences

Learning Objective 2: Describe five nursing care guidelines for adult patients with near death experiences

Near-death experiences (NDEs) are profound psychological events with transcendental elements typically occurring to individuals close to death or in situations of intense physical or emotional danger.  NDEs have the potential to transform a person’s life and beliefs.  Research on NDEs spans about 37 years.  NDE research has focused on the NDE elements, veridical content, aftereffects, explanatory models, cultural differences, childhood NDEs, and patient care.   New perspectives include shared death experiences (SDEs), such as people in the same car accident.  NDE researchers are only beginning to address the larger questions of consciousness, the afterlife, the nature of reality.  More than 15 common features in the NDE have been reported in the literature and these are common across cultures and religions. No two experiences are identical and no single feature is found in every NDE but the most commonly reported NDE involves intense feelings of peace, joy and love, often an encounter with an unconditionally loving light.  Surveys taken in the US, Australia, and Germany suggest that 4 to 15 % of the population have had NDEs. A large study conducted in the Netherlands showed that 18% of people who suffered a cardiac arrest, and were clinically dead, later reported an NDE.   A few of the common after affects of NDEs include light and sound sensitivity, being more altruistic, changes in thought processes, less tolerance for medication/chemicals, heightened sensations of touch, taste, smell, texture; new conviction about life purpose.  Patients at end-of-life may have more than one NDE.  Guidelines for nursing care will be presented in several areas such as:  assessment, therapeutic communication, how to talk with family members about NDEs and what to expect, how to talk with other providers about NDEs, and what resources are available for patients with NDEs.